Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 5 News List

US pledges to return church bells seized from the Philippines

AP, MANILA

The US is committed to returning three church bells seized by US forces as war spoils from the Philippines more than a century ago, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said on Tuesday, raising the prospects of the resolution of a thorny issue between the allies.

Kim said the two governments have discussed the return of the Balangiga Bells, named for the Philippine village from which they were taken in the early 1900s.

He said in response to questions from reporters that the US is “deeply committed that the bells are returned to the Filipino people,” but that he could not specify when that would happen.

LONG-STANDING ISSUE

Filipinos revere the bells as symbols of their long struggle for independence.

The bells gave the signal for insurgents to attack US soldiers who were occupying Balangiga after the US took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War.

Talks about returning the bells have been a perennial issue in bilateral relations.

Kim said there was “an ongoing discussion within the US government and the Philippine government to try and facilitate the return of these bells as quickly as possible,” but added there were some issues that needed to be solved in the US.

“We want to return them,” he said. “I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

MEMORIAL

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked the US to return the bells in his state of the nation address in July, saying: “They are part of our national heritage ... return it to us, this is painful for us.”

Two of the bells are displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

They are part of a memorial to 46 US troops killed by Filipino insurgents in 1901.

The third bell is with a US Army regiment in South Korea.

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